13 Tips for Your Military Transition

Tim Lucas
Military VA Loan editor
Ron Bennett

Ron Bennett served 35 years before his military transition into civilian life.

by Ron Bennett, 35-year U.S. Army Veteran

After 35 years of service, it was time to retire from the military. So what was I to do then? This is a time when you need to figure out what you want to do when you grow up.

As I was getting ready for my military transition, there were a lot of things that needed to be done before I took off my uniform and joined civilian life. Here are a few tips that I learned along the way…

13 Tips for Military to Civilian Transition

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute to start the military transition process. You have a good idea of when you are going to do this, so I would suggest you start this process a year before you are going to make this transition. It would be good to start looking for your next job now. Find a career transition center and start building your resume early.
  2. One of the other places you should go is the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  This program will help you to write a resume and interviewing skills. It will help you to be more comfortable when you are talking with potential employers.
  3. Look at companies that are looking to hire Veterans and offer military transition jobs.  A good place to look is vetjobs.com. This is available to all of the “United States Military Family.” This includes trailing spouses, eligible former spouses, widows, widowers, and dependants.
  4. Look into your local employment office. Where I’m from in King County, Washington, we have what called Work Source. They have a Veterans Service department that can help you create a career transition assistance plan, assist with emergency financial assistance, housing assistance, employment guidance, and Veterans benefits counseling. Your local employment office or career transition center may have similar programs.
  5. Look into more than one company or placement firm when you start looking for a job. Using just one agency could delay your receiving a job and create a lag in the time it will take you to find employment. Some of the free services out there are military placement firms, military job boards, and military job fairs. Also, you should look into some of the military associations and networking.
  6. One of the things you should realize is that new employers are going to look at you differently when you start looking for a new job. If you are into social media (Facebook, Linkedin), make sure that you delete anything that may hurt you in your search. Employers will look at these sites. If there is something there that may be derogatory, this could stop you from receiving that job offer.
  7. When you get ready to move, don’t automatically look at “going home”.  Use your relocation benefit to move to the city where your new job may be. That way, a company that wants to hire you won’t have to pay to relocate you, giving you a leg up. This may put you first in line for that position.
  8. On that note, make sure to look into your VA home loan benefit as you transition. It might save time and money to buy a home near your new employment, and move just once. The VA home loan allows you to buy with no down payment, so it may be almost as easy to buy as to find a place to rent. See guidelines on VA home buying and also these tips on applying for a home loan while changing employment.
  9. If you have a family going with you to your new location, you may want to get gap insurance to cover you in the event you have a medical situation come up.
  10. Make sure you re-write your resume in such a way that your civilian employer understands what you can do. Remember, the lingo we use in the military will not always be understood out in the real world. Also, during your interview, make sure to sell yourself. Be ready to talk about how your military background will help you on the job.
  11. Don’t settle for just any job. Make sure you take the time and look at all your options until you feel you have found the right job.
  12. If you have a security clearance, this may put you a leg up for some jobs, and could give you a wider variety of professional opportunities to choose from. Mention your security clearance in your resume. If there is a position you are applying for that requires a clearance, make that information prominent so it’s sure to catch a recruiter’s or employer’s eye.
  13. You may want to look into going back to school and get additional training and degrees. Your GI bill should help you to get that additional knowledge. Make sure you can afford to live and take care of your family, or find a job that will support you until you finish your education.

Your transition from the military can be smooth if you plan accordingly. Talk with the transition department on your military installation. They will walk you through all the steps to out-process, and make sure you have all the documents you need to have as you leave. And I wish you well in your new life, and thank you for your service.

Ron Bennett (NMLS 57792, MLO-57792) is a Sr. Mortgage Advisor in Washington State. Contact Ron at 253.561.9704 and visit him on Facebook. Ron’s military experience: last rank – Master/First Sergeant (E-8); 35 years of service; U.S. Army.